Dick Clark, Host of "American Bandstand," Dies at Age 82

Clark was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

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    Headshot studio portrait of American television host, producer, and actor Dick Clark, dressed in a blazer and tie, February 25, 1985. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

    Dick Clark, the television host from Mount Vernon, N.Y., who helped bring rock 'n' roll into the mainstream on "American Bandstand," has died. He was 82.

    Clark's spokesman said Clark died of a heart attack Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. He had entered St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica for an outpatient procedure.

    Clark began his career in media with a mailroom job at a Utica, N.Y. radio station in 1945, while still in high school. He later graduated from Syracuse University.

    Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday noted Clark's New York roots and said "we will remember his energy, youthful spirit and passion for his work."

    Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement that Clark's "spirit will always live on in Times Square" and in New Yorkers' hearts.

    Long dubbed "the world's oldest teenager" because of his boyish appearance, Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business, and was equally comfortable whether chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon about TV bloopers. He thrived as the founder of Dick Clark Productions, supplying movies, game and music shows, beauty contests and more to TV. Among his credits: "The $25,000 Pyramid," ''TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" and the American Music Awards.

    For a time in the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans.

    "There's hardly any segment of the population that doesn't see what I do," Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. "It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, 'I love your show,' and I have no idea which one they're talking about."

    The original "American Bandstand" was one of network TV's longest-running series from 1957 to 1987. It later aired for a year in syndication and briefly on the USA Network. The show's status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated its original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution.

    Clark joined "Bandstand" in 1956 after Bob Horn, who'd been the host since its 1952 debut, was fired. Under Clark's guidance, it went from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon.

    "I played records, the kids danced, and America watched," was how Clark once described the series' simplicity. In his 1958 hit "Sweet Little Sixteen," Chuck Berry sang that "they'll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P-A."

    As a host, he had the smooth delivery of a seasoned radio announcer. As a producer, he had an ear for a hit record. He also knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.

    His stroke in December 2004 forced him to miss his annual appearance on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." He returned the following year and, although his speech at times was difficult to understand, many praised his bravery, including other stroke victims.

    Still speaking with difficulty, he continued taking part in his New Year's shows, though in a diminished role. Ryan Seacrest became the main host.

    "I'm just thankful I'm still able to enjoy this once-a-year treat," he told The Associated Press by email in December 2008 as another New Year's Eve approached.

    He was honored at the Emmy Awards in 2006, telling the crowd: "I have accomplished my childhood dream, to be in show business. Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true. I've been truly blessed."

    He was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1929. His father, Richard Augustus Clark, was a sales manager who worked in radio.

    Clark idolized his athletic older brother, Bradley, who was killed in World War II. In his 1976 autobiography, "Rock, Roll & Remember," Clark recalled how radio helped ease his loneliness and turned him into a fan of Steve Allen, Arthur Godfrey and other popular hosts.

    From Godfrey, he said, he learned that "a radio announcer does not talk to 'those of you out there in radio land'; a radio announcer talks to me as an individual."

    Clark's clean-cut image survived a music industry scandal. In 1960, during a congressional investigation of "payola" or bribery in the record and radio industry, Clark was called on to testify.

    He was cleared of any suspicions but was required by ABC to divest himself of record-company interests to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The demand cost him $8 million, Clark once estimated. His holdings included partial ownership of Swan Records, which later released the first U.S. version of the Beatles' smash "She Loves You."

    In 2004, Clark announced plans for a revamped version of "American Bandstand." The show, produced with "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, was to feature a host other than Clark.

    Clark, twice divorced, had a son, Richard Augustus II, with first wife Barbara Mallery and two children, Duane and Cindy, with second wife Loretta Martin. He married Kari Wigton in 1977.

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